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Dirk rooting for almost alma mater Kentucky

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki, knowing the Final Four was going to be a short drive down Interstate 30, was disappointed that the NBA scheduled the Mavericks for a road trip this weekend.

“They screwed us over,” Nowitzki said. “We’re basically out of town the whole weekend. That’s unfortunate. I looked at the schedule obviously knowing that the Final Four was going to be here. We for sure would have gone one day, the whole team probably, so that’s disappointing.”

As disappointing as that is, Nowitzki is excited that his Kentucky Wildcats will be coming to town.

Yes, Nowitzki claims Kentucky as his team despite never enrolling in a class or playing a minute of college basketball. That’s because he would have been a Wildcat if he hadn’t opted to declare for the 1998 NBA draft.

Nowitzki, who is also happy for UConn senior Niels Giffey of Berlin, Germany, has fond memories of making an official visit to Kentucky along with mentor Holger Geschwindner.

“It would have been a great time,” Nowitzki said. “They showed me around. I met some of the players. Scott Padgett was my host. I went to dinner with Tubby [Smith]. He was the coach back then. Holger wore his leather jacket to dinner, so everything was great.

“I visited in ’98, so they just won [a national title], so that would have been obviously a great program. But I decided to go straight pro and was lucky. You never know what’s going to happen. I think a year of college or two was going to be great, but the way it worked out here was awesome.”

Nowitzki also visited Stanford and Cal, although he jokes that those institutions might have had to bend some academic rules to admit him.

Ever the diplomat, Nowitzki also has a seat on Dallas neighbor SMU’s bandwagon as the Mustangs prepare for the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

“Of course, SMU had a great year,” Nowitzki said. “They screwed us out of getting into the tournament, but hopefully we’ll win the NIT. Anything is possible.”